Update: Since writing this Paul Chambers has won his case in the High Court that challenged his conviction BBC News
Court cases around Twitter seem to be fairly commonplace these days. Paul Chambers is in court again today (Wednesday 27th June), being supported by Twitter celebrities Al Murray and Stephen Fry, to try and get his conviction for ‘sending a message of a menacing character’ overturned – more info here
#twitterjoketrial has been trending all day as, rightly so, all those on Twitter are interested in the outcome.
Twitter is the most fast moving, information sharing, opinion feed that exists and that’s what makes it so attractive to its 500 million plus users. This freedom and ability to share information quickly has been attributed, amongst other things, to aiding civil unrest and social revolution.
As of yet, governments and individuals have been unable to censor Twitter – and rightly so. Although it came close when Ryan Gigs got ousted on Twitter for having an extra-marital affair, despite taking out a court injunction that covered traditional media. Lawyers threatened to subpoena the first Tweeter who let the cat out of the bag, but when hundreds of thousands more Tweeters sprang to his defence by tweeting and re-tweeting the same information, they were onto a losing battle.
This week there has been an arrest over alleged racists tweets aimed at members of the England football team. In this instance (as is often the case) Twitter policed itself as another Tweeter informed the police of the alleged racist tweets and the sender.
Twitter will delete tweets and users if it feels that they are against Twitter rules. It also has very comprehensive terms of service, that make it very clear that any content posted is the responsibility of the user.
Twitter operates outside of the ‘nanny state’ as is one of very few places where opinion and comment is free. It is refreshing to be part of a real social network that allows users the freedom to express their opinions, within reason, and take responsibility for them.
In the case of Paul Chambers, it is a classic situation of the receiver (Robin Hood Airport) not receiving the message in the vain to which it was sent. If he had said the same thing out loud in the airport security queue would he have been detained, probably. It was meant to be a joke, but unfortunately backfired. Perhaps it is a lesson to all of us to think before we Tweet?
In the words of Twitter:
‘What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!’